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NO NEWS IS BAD NEWS by Maureen Milliken: Book Review

Newspaper reporter/editor Bernadette “Bernie” O’Dea’s life has been chaotic since her move to Redimere, Maine.  In Cold Hard News, which takes place several months before this book begins, Bernie and the town’s new chief of police, Pete Novotny, were involved in a murder investigation and a struggle for their lives; it looks as if history is repeating itself.

No News is Bad News, the second book in this series, opens in 2009, but it has its true beginning several years earlier in Philadelphia.  At that time Pete was a detective searching for a missing teen, JP Donovan, the youngest child in a very dysfunctional family.  The police had had no luck in tracing JP over a two-year period, despite an almost obsessive investigation on Pete’s part.

Then, four years after JP’s disappearance, a boy is found in Redimere’s woods by a local police officer.  After he’s brought to the police station, the youth initially refuses to talk to anyone.  Finally he walks over to a wall covered with flyers of missing children, points to a photo of JP, and says, “That’s me.”

After Pete picks the teenager up in Redimere and drives him back to Philadelphia, the Donovans, mother and sister, welcome the boy with open arms and even have a huge party to celebrate his return.  So why does Pete feel as if the whole event is staged?  Would any mother say a boy was her son when he wasn’t?  Pete doesn’t understand it.  Even though Pete has left Philadelphia and moved to Redimere to head its police department, he hasn’t forgotten about the Donovan case.

At the same time, Bernie is struggling with a variety of issues.  She’s determined to keep the town’s weekly newspaper afloat, but at times it seems like an uphill battle.  She also wants to make sense of the unexpected appearance at her home of her youngest brother, Sal.  He tells her he’s been fired from his teaching job for plagiarism, something Bernie can hardly believe.  He’s invited himself to stay with Bernie until he figures out how to tell their extremely accomplished parents and siblings about his being fired and until he decides what he wants to do with the rest of his life.  Bernie is (mostly) happy to have his company, but she’s not certain Sal has told her the whole story.

And to add to the above mix, Bernie isn’t sure about her feelings for Pete.  He’s told her he loves her, but her response has been only silence.  She likes him, certainly, but is she ready for love?

Maureen Milliken has written a terrific mystery.  The fast-paced plot is totally believable, as are the characters, and the small-town setting works to help the reader understand life in a northern Maine town where everyone knows everyone else.  Bernie O’Dea is a heroine to watch.

You can read more about Maureen Milliken at this web site.

You can read the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


THE FORGOTTEN GIRL by David Bell: Book Review

What happens to a teenager’s life when his best friend disappears?  Does he keep waiting for him to return, or does he accept the fact that he’ll never see him again?

Jason Danvers and his group were celebrating their graduation from Ednaville high school.  He and a girl from his class, Megan Raines, seemed about ready to take the next step in their so-far platonic relationship when Logan Shaw, Jason’s closest friend, interrupted.  Logan was the town’s “rich boy” who lived with his father in a house that dwarfed its surroundings; for him money appeared to be no object, and he was used to getting what he wanted.

Still, he and Jason, who came from a much more modest background, had been best friends for years until that night when Logan asked Megan to run away with him.  After she refused and the intoxicated Logan persisted, Jason attacked Logan and knocked him to the ground.  Logan got up, angrily walked away, and was never seen again.

Years have passed, and Jason is again living in Ednaville with his wife Nora after having spent time in New York City.  Megan Raines, now a divorced mother of two, lives in the town too.  Jason is asked to lunch by another former classmate, Colton Rivers, who says he has been contacted by Logan’s father to search for Logan.  Mr. Shaw, frail and suffering from dementia, wants to find his son before it’s too late.  But Jason isn’t any help; he hasn’t seen Logan since that night.

Into this mix comes Jason’s sister, Hayden.  She’s a woman with a troubled past, fueled mainly by alcohol, who has appeared and disappeared from their home town many times over the years.  Now she is back, this time with her teenage daughter.  She asks Jason and Nora to watch their niece Sierra for a day or two because she has something she must take care of immediately.

Despite Jason’s pleas, Hayden refuses to tell him what she is planning to do, and he finally agrees to let Sierra stay with them while Hayden leaves for “forty-eight hours at most.”  Then she’s gone.

 To quote the author Cassandra Clare, “Lies and secrets…they are like a cancer in the soul. They eat away what is good and leave only destruction behind.”   Those members of Jason’s graduating class would have done well to heed that saying.

David Bell’s characters are haunted by the many secrets they have kept over the years.  The secrets, which would have been easily explained at the time the events happened, burrowed deep into the psyches of the teenagers in town and affected the rest of their lives.  Jason, Hayden, Megan–each carry the memories and guilt of what happened on commencement night.

The Forgotten Girl is an exciting read, with characters whose faults and foibles may not be so different from our own.  Perhaps each one of us has kept a secret that has had major implications for the rest of our lives.   Should we have kept our secrets to ourselves in the hope that they never would be discovered?  Or should we have told the truth and dealt with the repercussions?

You can read more about David Bell at various sites on the internet.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads blog at her web site.